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B'resheet/Genesis 26:30 And he made for them a feast and they ate and they drank
The word , here translated 'feast', comes from the root , which usually means "to drink" (e.g. Job 15:16) but many translations (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, ESV) also suggest "to banquet, feast, dine" from contexts such as Esther 7:1. The noun is constructed from the verb root by adding a prefix, which is commonly taken as the location where the verb activity takes place; another example is the noun , an altar, from the root , to slaughter or kill animals, especially for sacrifice. Here, eating and drinking take place at a feast or banquet that Yitz'chak has made for Abimelech the king of the Philistines, Ahuzzath the king's advisor and Phicol the commander of his army.
Sarna comments that "In the ancient world, treaty-making often was accompanied by a ceremonial meal, the purpose of which was to create an atmosphere of harmony and fellowship for the pact to go into effect." The Scriptures provide us with a number of examples of high hospitality - for this is not just the sharing of a meal together - being used as a diplomatic tool. "Then Ya'akov offered a sacrifice on the mountain and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place" (B'resheet 31:54-44, NASB). Here after Ya'akov, his wives and children have fled from Haran and been chased by the indignant Laban beforeHaShem intervenes to protect Ya'akov by warning Laban in a dream, Ya'akov - on the one side - and Laban - on the other - make a covenant before G-d not to harm each other in the future. They share a formal meal, prepared by Ya'akov and his household, before each leave in the respective directions.
Another example, somewhat enigmatic in its images that are reminiscent of the visions seen many centuries later by Ezekiel and Daniel, comes at the end of the formal giving of the Torah to Israel at Mt. Sinai: "Then Moshe went up with Aharon, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders ... and they beheld G-d, and they ate and drank" (Shemot 24:9-11, NASB). G-d provided the feast, either by a miracle or from the sacrifices that had just been made; and in the context of a ceremonial meal to celebrate the offer and acceptance of covenant, "they saw the G-d of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself" (v.10, NASB).
Years later, when David was king of Judah, Abner - who was serving Saul's son Ishbosheth - came to David at Hebron to deliver the other eleven tribes into his kingdom, "and David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. And Abner said to David, 'Let me arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king that they make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires.' So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace" (2 Samuel 3:20-21, NASB). Abner was switching sides, from the house of Saul to the house of David, who was effectively at war with Saul's son Ishbosheth, and offered to bring the other tribes to accept David as king over them. David laid on a ceremonial meal for Abner and his men and they departed in peace.
Taking another big step forward in time, we find another meal that was arranged in order to effect covenant. A group of fishermen had been out all night on the Kinneret, but had failed to catch anything. At daybreak, Yeshua met them and after repeating the miracle that He had first used to catch their attention when calling those same fishermen to be His first disciples (see Luke 5:1-11), He invited them to a fish breakfast that He had already prepared for them. But this was no ordinary men's breakfast meeting, this was a meal to confirm and establish covenant. "After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim'on Kefa, 'Shim'on Bar-Yohanan, do you love Me more than these?'" (John 21:15, CJB). After repeating the question twice more, each time with Kefa's reply that he loved Him, "Yeshua said to him" - again echoing His original call in Mark 1:17 - "'Follow Me!'" (John 21:19, CJB).
No less certain is that G-d is still providing meals for people and uses the context of a meal in order to call people to know Him - the Alpha courses, all of which centre around a meal, run by churches all over the UK are testimony to that - to deeper commitment to Him and to send them out or commission them to serve Him in their immediate location or around the world. Mellowed by the hospitality and food, sitting down and talking afterwards over a cup of coffee, people are much more open to hear what G-d has to say to them and respond to His voice.
Further Study: Matthew 25:35; Hebrews 13:2
Application: When did you last set up a meal for people so that you and they could hear from the L-rd? Why not think of who you could invite round to share some food and what G-d has been speaking to you about. Go on, right now - pick up the 'phone and your address book - and see what G-d can do!
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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